I took a guest who has lived in Bangkok for 23 years to explain things to me. I was also interested to meet Chef Dylan Jones (‘lan’), who I had exchanged messages with on Twitter (@sifrew), he was very good at responding. His Thai partner is Chef Bo Songvisava (‘Bo’).
I was glad my friend drove us there because I am sure a taxi driver would have struggled to find this traditional Thai house down a slide street. We were welcomed with incredible warm, despite arriving at 8:20pm, late for Thailand. We were allowed to choose our own table from three and it was all very relaxed and friendly.
We picked the ‘Balanced Set Menu’, and some of the signature cocktails, and the fun began. We were asked how spicy we wanted the food and said ‘medium’ and there was only one dish - the coconut based soup with prawns & young Tamarind leaves - that I found too hot.
There were so many elements to the meal, and it was all so complex, I struggled to comprehend it. My friend has eaten food in Thailand for 23 years and said he had not seen anything like it. I am told many of the items we ate are not available anywhere else. ‘Bolan’ is also the Thai word for ‘ancient’ and many dishes are recreations of dishes long forgotten, rather like Heston Blumenthal at Dinner in London. The ‘Balanced Set Menu’ includes all the traditional elements of a Thai meal; a Thai salad (yum), stir-fried (jan phat), curry (keng), chilli relish (kreung jim) and a soup (nahm keng). I discussed with my friend the fact Thai people seem to relish fatty/tough pieces of meat. He confirmed this was the case and we agreed places need to prepare dishes differently for Western taste.
We adored so many of the dishes (eg fermented rice simmered in coconut cream with prawns served with deep fried stuffed local flowers) and I ate some of the best noodles I have had in my life. The organic brown rice was incredible and it was fun to try things like Ya Dong Grachai Dum (Thai rice spirit - with a whisky like undertone) with sour fruits that reminded me of trying cooking apples as a child in Shropshire and woke up our tastebuds.
Dylan Jones came to say hello to us, which was very sweet of him, but we were unsure if he was British, German or Australian, and my mum is Welsh. A good analogy for Bo.lan, elements of many flavours seemed familiar but you struggled to place them.
Having lived in Qatar, I have an obsession with pork and the cubes of belly pork dish was my favourite. For most of the time I lived in Qatar it was illegal to serve pork.
With the desserts we were served Bo.lan blend Chiang Mai tea with chamomile, mint, ginger & honey - a sophisticated soothing drink - a perfect accompaniment to the ‘out of worldly desserts’.
The petit fours came with a burning taper to ‘smoke’ the ‘nut brittle’ in a small glass dome. We think we were told this was jasmine but it just made it taste burnt.
Overall 4 out of 5 ‘teddies’ - service was almost flawless, only one drink was forgotten, but there were almost too many new things to experience and a few missteps (eg the burnt taste did not work). However, the noodles alone deserve a prize and, if you have the money, it is an experience anyone visiting Bangkok must try.
The amuse bouche. The small cup held some of the best green chicken curry I have eaten, and I have eaten lots! We think we were told the meat on the beautiful skewer was lamb but we found this difficult to believe. The small dish contained steamed egg with crab, the crab was incredible but I was not keen on the egg texture in a savoury dish.
I was very excited about trying Bo.lan. After a month in Thailand, I wanted to experience the best of Thai food. The chefs here were trained by David Thompson at Nahm but they serve “proper Thai food”.
Si Frew has lived in the UK, Bermuda, Qatar, Cyprus & the Cayman Islands. During this time he met Whoopi Goldberg (in Claridge's), Mike Tyson (in the Concorde Lounge at JFK) , Gordon Ramsay (in the Doha Four Seasons), Chris Eubanks (in The Dorchester), Cherie Blair (in Bermuda & again in the Doha Four Seasons) etc. There are funny stories attached to all these interactions, feel free to ask Si about them when you meet him.